Helping Large Groups Navigate Travel: Remote Year Case Study

by Sara Tiffany, VP of Product at AirTreks.

Sometimes it’s alarming to think about changing flight plans just for a single traveler, several months away. Unknowns aren’t ever pleasant during a trip. So, what about changes in plans for a huge digital nomad group?

On July 20 of 2016, I got a phone call from the travel coordinator from one of our partners, Remote Year.  They had several big groups set to travel at the end of the month, some by air and some by bus. Remote Year received feedback from one group that they were unhappy about their planned travel by bus from Lisbon to Rabat. Because of this, Remote Year wanted to switch that overland journey to a flight.

Could AirTreks find and confirm tickets for 43 travelers leaving on July 30th, just 10 days away?

Group reservations work differently than booking individual tickets. Usually, when making reservations for a group larger than 10 people, AirTreks will contact each airline involved in the itinerary and request a group reservation. The average ticket price is generally a bit higher than the cheapest fare available for an individual, but the airlines will block off seats with just a deposit. So you can reserve 10 (or 20, or 75) seats months in advance, but you can send traveler names and final payment later.

This is how we usually book tickets for Remote Year’s cohorts of 75 travelers: we contact the airlines for group rates, place deposits, and then issue the tickets once we know exactly who will be traveling. Inevitably, some travelers will want to deviate from the group, but we can help with that too. If someone wants to switch to a different flight or route, we help switch their tickets and then try to reduce the size of the blocked-off seats.

In this particular last-minute case, we didn’t have any group space blocked because we thought this group would be traveling by bus. It was high summer travel season, and the flight was a week away!

Luckily, our team who works on flights for digital nomad groups like Remote Year are also experts in booking any type of complicated international ticket. We went through our reservation systems and found space on 3 different flights for the weekend of July 30th, and were able to secure seats for everyone in the group. We made sure that we had a least one staff member from Remote Year on each of the flights, so they could make sure they had personnel on hand to take care of their travelers. We met with Remote Year’s travel coordinator, and working together she approved and we quickly issued tickets for all 43 travelers.

This was just one piece of the Remote Year flight puzzle we were supporting that weekend. During July of 2016, Remote Year had 4 cohorts traveling concurrently.  We’d already booked group flights into and out from London for 2 of the 4 cohorts. The third traveled by bus between Prague and Belgrade. Those transitions went smoothly with no issues, so we just needed to work on switching the bus to a flight for the 4th group.

Luckily, at AirTreks, this sort of last-minute problem does not phase us. Embrace Change is one of our company’s core values. We loved being available to help at the last minute. We’ve been having a great time working with Remote Year as they continue to grow, now moving 450+ travelers in 6+ cohorts from place to place each month.

This is one of the things I love most about working in “air-for-companies,” or Travel Management Services, at AirTreks: there is always an interesting problem to solve. We help companies of all kinds, from work+travel groups to safari operators to event planners. Everyone has different complex travel problems, so there is always something new and different to work on. All of the people on our team thrive on these challenges and love helping companies focus on their core business while we worry about the flights.

Sara been planning complex international trips and building around-the-world airfare products for people and companies since 2005.